By Debi Willis
Whether you have toddlers or teens — or some of both or something in between — California is a fantastic place to enjoy a family vacation. You can camp on the coast, day trip to Disneyland, savor San Francisco’s culinary delights or relax among the awesomeness of the Redwoods National Forest.
Unfortunately, however, you probably can’t do it all. You certainly can’t do it all in one day… probably not in one week, either, and maybe not even in a whole month. You will have to make choices, but the good news is that it’s pretty hard to make a wrong one! For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on what the southern portion of the state has to offer in the way of California family vacation fun.
For families with young children, San Diego is definitely an excellent choice. You can spend a day at Sea World or enjoy and learn about sea life on a smaller (and less theatrical) scale at the lovely Birch Aquarium. You should also take some time to relax and explore Mission Bay (a lovely place to picnic and the country’s largest man-made aquatic park) or to enjoy the beaches of Coronado (meaning “crowned one”) or La Jolla (the meaning of which some believe is “the jewel” from a misspelling of the Spanish “la joya” and others believe is a corruption of the Indian word “woholle,” meaning “hole in the mountain,” and a reference to the caves in the cliffs next to La Jolla Cove Park). This author doesn’t know who’s right, but she does know La Jolla is fabulous! In addition, older children may enjoy taking a surfing lesson or sampling some of San Diego’s multiple major league sports teams.
There’s also the world famous San Diego Zoo, of course, in beautiful Balboa Park (where you will also find 15 something-for-everybody museums), but don’t forget the zoo’s equally famous sibling, the Wild Animal Park, in nearby Escondido. About halfway in between San Diego and Los Angeles, LegoLand Park, located in Carlsbad, is also in the same general area as the Wild Animal Park.
About 85 miles north of San Diego, you’ll find Orange County (aka “the OC”), home to Anaheim, which is home to none other than “The Happiest Place on Earth” (aka Disneyland). Close to 15 million people visited this “grand lady” of American amusement parks in 2007, and in 2009 you can visit for free if you do so on your birthday. Even Miley Cyrus, star of the popular Disney show “Hannah Montana,” plans to celebrate her 16th birthday at Disneyland on October 5, 2009! (Go to disneyparks.com for details.) There’s also Disney’s California Adventure to enjoy (a completely separate amusement park although contiguous to Disneyland), as well the more laid-back Knott’s Berry Farm, also in Anaheim.
A bit further north, another theme park you may want to consider visiting is Universal Studios, where the attractions pay homage to popular movies and television shows. There are thrill rides and terrific live shows – something for everyone! If your children are more of the teen variety, Hollywood and Beverly Hills should also be on your “don’t miss this” list. Then, when everyone is ready to cool off and wind down, just head to one of the area’s incredible beaches.
Do you see what I mean about having a lot of choices? Southern California is an area of great natural beauty and nearly endless entertainment opportunities. It’s also the perfect place for your California family vacation!
Debi Willis enjoys sharing information to help people plan their California vacations and getaways. There are all sorts of fun ideas at http://californiatouristguide.com just waiting for you to discover!
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